Parker crested the stairs and took a moment to catch his breath. His wrinkled hand pushed open the gymnasium door. With cautious steps he strolled by the trophy case, but stopped for a moment to look at the championship awards. There were eleven for baseball alone.
Behind the glittering trophies stood a dull plaque that read, Lakeside High School, 1947 State Champions. “It sure looked prettier when we received it,” He said to himself. The aging man reminisced in the memory for a moment.
“Eugene Trevor Smith is my name, but my friends call me Parker,” the young baseball player said to the coach of his new high school. “I want to play shortstop on the baseball team.”
Coach Caegle looked over the skinny kid with a skeptical eye. “We’ve got several talented infielders on the varsity team already, but maybe you can try out with our JV team –”
“I know I’m starter material,” Parker interrupted. “Just give me a go and you’ll see what I can do.” He could see the coach giving him a look over. His old coach used to say, “You couldn’t tip the scales at 120 pounds, soaking wet.” This man is probably thinking the same thing.
“You see that kid over there?” Coach pointed to a fleet-footed youth doing wind sprints. “He’s our starting shortstop. He’s batting .347 and has been the best hitting shortstop in the division - two years running.” He swept his arm toward the team stretching in the outfield, “Not one of these starters belongs on the bench. We came in second in the state last year and have a good chance to win it all. Every one of those guys earned their spot. If you prove yourself in JV, you’ll have a shot at making the team.”
“I’m a senior this year. There won’t be a next year, and if I’m going to get recruited for college, I need to start.” His cocky attitude faded into a plea. “Please, just let me take a few at bats and do some fielding. I promise that by the end of the year, I’ll be leading the team in offense.”
The coach shook his head. “You’ve got nerve, I’ll give you credit for that.” Coach walked away as he called out to the team to take their positions. Parker stood there looking dejected. “Rivers,” Coach yelled, “take some warm up tosses to get ready. Let me see if Eugene can hold a bat.” He shifted around and called out, “Eugene, get your bat ready. Rivers throws smoke. If you can hit him, we’ll take a look at you.”
Parker’s face lit up and he trotted to the dugout to grab a bat. Unfriendly eyes watched him, but he pushed the tension off his shoulders and plucked a bat off the ground. The scent of dust in the air pumped his excitement. There’s nothing like the smell in the air at game time. He nodded a thanks to the coach as he walked toward the batter’s box.
“Hey, son,” Coach called out, “How does someone named Eugene get a nickname like Parker?”
Parker shrugged off the question and stepped to the plate. He placed his focus on the pitcher. “Rivers throws smoke,” the coach’s words echoed in his mind. It’s not hard to figure out what’s coming. Fastball on the outside would be my guess. The pitcher took a long wind-up and let the ball fly. Parker planted his legs and aimed the bat on the outside corner of the plate. A loud crack resonated in his ears and the left fielder looked up, but didn’t move. Instantly he knew it was leaving the park.
Parker looked back to the coach and said, “Maybe that’s why they call me Parker.”
“Mr. Smith?” a voice called as the team’s coach approached while reaching out for a handshake.
“My friends call me Parker,” he answered and extended his hand.
Parker followed the man to an office and shuffled to a couch. He eased down as he aimed, and then dropped into the cushions.
“I’m so glad you could join us for the 65th anniversary of Lakeside’s first winning team. This week we are receiving our twelfth championship and are excited to have someone from our first team receive the trophy!” The coach continued, “So why do they call you Parker?”
The old man chuckled to himself. “I suppose it’s because when I get parked, it’s hard to get going again.”
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